strange_complex: (Rick's Cafe)
I've been writing up reviews of films seen at the Cottage Road cinema's classic film nights here for a while, but last night the Hyde Park Picture House offered an equivalent of its own: an evening of 1940s cinema. I went along with [ profile] planet_andy, [ profile] big_daz and [ profile] ms_siobhan - who had really thrown herself into the spirit of the evening by taking the cinema management's encouragement to dress in period style to heart. She wasn't the only one, either. I'd say there were probably about 50-60 people there, of whom at least ten had taken the opportunity to dress up, and some of whom had really gone to town. Unlike at the Cottage Road cinema, we didn't get any dodgy vintage adverts at the start of the programme, but we did get two short films before moving on to the main feature.

19a. Listen to Britain )

19b. 6 Little Jungle Boys )

19c. Perfect Strangers )

Anyway, a very enjoyable evening all round; and capped off by a jolly nice late dinner in Hyde Park, too. Posters outside the cinema promised Vincent Price in The Last Man on Earth, complete with a new musical score, next Saturday night - but I can't actually see anything about that on the Hyde Park Picture House's own website. Still, if it's on, [ profile] ms_siobhan and I are going. Anyone else?

Edit: The Last Man on Earth is now on the official Hyde Park Picture House site, too - so definitely a goer!

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strange_complex: (Twiggy)
Seen with [ profile] ms_siobhan at the Cottage Road Cinema.

I went into this film forewarned that it would reduce the cause of feminism to a shallow, materialist parody, while also being terrifyingly offensive about Middle Eastern culture to boot. Some of the reviews I had read included:And you know, OVERALL, those reviews are all absolutely right. This film buys straight into any number of questionable western patriarchal stereotypes, which should be enough to write it off on its own. It also isn't a patch on the TV series, and is catastrophically out-of-touch with its recession-hit audience. It is poorly paced and structured, with minor characters popping up one minute and forgotten the next, and minor plot-points rushed through so fast that if you blinked you would miss them. It is crawling with unsubtle product placements (Rolex, Spanx, iPhone, and doubtless many others which I am too fashion-ignorant to spot). AND it includes a superfluous apostrophe, clearly visible in the title of a Vogue article entitled 'Marriage and the terrible two's' which we see Carrie printing out in the first half of the film. ARGH! [ profile] ms_siobhan and I certainly had plenty to exclaim in horror and disbelief over as we headed for delicious Thai food afterwards, and I fervently hope that my memories of the TV show won't be further tarnished by yet another foray into sequel territory.

But the experience of watching it ended up being for me above all an object lesson in the dangers of over-stating a rhetorical case. Because while I agree with the basic points which all of the above reviews are making, now that I have seen the film I can also see that in several places all three of them have slipped into caricaturing what the film actually does in order to get those points across. The result is that I find myself in the rather odd position of feeling that I need to defend certain aspects of the film against particular points made in those reviews, even though I entirely agree with their overall assessments.

See the thing is - yes, Samantha is shown taking 44 vitamin pills every morning )

And yes, we are shown that Miranda's job is interfering with her home life )

And yes, we do indeed witness the sorry spectacle of Samantha hurling condoms at Middle Eastern men in the street )

So all in all, this may be a pretty crappy film, peddling some seriously unsound ideologies and not even terribly well put-together as a story. But you know, when the reviews make that very point by peddling distorted half-truths, they also undermine their own case. I guess I should know by my age that that's how journalism works (she says, still scowling angrily at The Telegraph). But sometimes I don't half wish it wasn't.

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strange_complex: (Amelia Rumford archaeologist)
I couldn't post this last night, because I just could not get onto LJ at any point after Doctor Who ended. So what follows was actually written in Yahoo! Notepad yesterday evening, and lightly edited this morning in order to get the tenses right.

Gosh, well. I think I can only possibly start writing about this with the end first )

So where the hell does this go now? )

Anyway, as for the rest of the story, yes, it did play out much like Three's encounters with our reptilian cousins )

The Doctor and Ambrose )

Nasreen Chaudhry )

So, Chris Chibnall may not be the most highly-regarded of Doctor Who writers, and it may well be that without the shock ending (which must surely have been largely Steven Moffat's work), this would have ended up as another largely predictable and forgettable story. But, as it was, it worked for me. Looking forward to yet more historical action next week.

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strange_complex: (Me Art Deco)
This was recommended to me by [ profile] glitzfrau because of my fascination with the 1930s, and I thank her for the pointer, because it was a lovely read. As the title would suggest, it presents the diary of an upper-middle-class Devon housewife, whose name we never learn - though this page makes pretty clear that the account is largely autobiographical.

We follow the diarist's life for a year as she struggles to run an evidently quite large house on the edge of a country village, navigating her way between financial disasters, servant problems and the demands of her social position. It's light-hearted and comically told, but at the same time presents a precisely-observed and often very poignant picture of English society in the 1930s. Moral codes, aspirations and social hierarchies are all deftly laid out and gently mocked - but only ever in a fondly self-deprecating way that brings a wry smile to the lips.

The diarist's world is also almost exclusively feminine. Her lifestyle is, of course, financially and socially supported by her husband, Robert. But allowing for that basic set-up, neither Robert nor any other man has very much influence at all over the day-to-day experiences of her life. Robert generally falls in line with the diarist's plans and activities happily enough, offering the occasional brief comment, but content on most occasions to nod, smile and fall asleep behind his newspaper. Meanwhile, the diarist has a busy self-directed life full of female friends, WI meetings, local community activities, visits to London, reading, writing and household management. For all her proclaimed self-doubts, she comes across as a highly autonomous character, who is fully in control of her own life.

Interestingly, the book also presents a critique of what must at the time have been the stereotypical face of proto-feminism. This comes with the arrival in the village of Miss Pankerton, an Oxbridge 'blue-stocking' with very fixed ideas about how the modern woman should aspire to behave. She swans into the diarist's world brandishing her artistic leanings and intellectual credentials, and tells her that she strikes her "as being a woman whose life has never known fulfilment", that she has "no right" to let herself become "a domestic beast of burden", and that she (Miss Pankerton) is "determined to scrape all the barnacles" off her. Meanwhile, the diarist fumes inwardly at being told how she should behave, and Miss Pankerton is quietly shown to be rude and narrow-minded without the diarist ever dreaming of spelling out any such thing. Before long she has realised that her efforts are wasted, and huffily removed herself from the diarist's society.

In other words, what we are shown is a conflict between an ostentatious but rigidly-defined form of female emancipation, and a sort of quiet, pragmatic feminism which just boils down to doing what makes you, personally, happy. Judging from synopses of some of E.M. Delafield's other books, it's pretty clear that she knew perfectly well that not all women are happy in the context of marriage, and nor do they have the luxury to pursue their own interests while someone else supports them financially. Nonetheless, it's interesting to see that she feels able to offer a critique of a model of feminism which in itself demands that women adhere closely to a particular set of pre-defined ideals.

My edition of The Diary of a Provincial Lady came bundled into one volume with its three sequels; and I rather like the sound of Consequences, too. So you may just have started something here, young Glitzy!

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strange_complex: (Me Art Deco)
The film of this was the best thing I saw in the cinema last year, and I've meant to read the book ever since. It entirely lived up to my expectations - it is bright, funny, original and beautifully put together.

The story and structure are essentially the same as the film, but not identical. The film includes all the same characters, but has extended the story-arcs of some of them and given others more complicated motivations and agendas, creating more opportunities for drama and tension. But I think this is a case of each medium doing what suits it best - that makes for a great 21st-century film, but part of the delight of the book is that the narrative remains quite simple, allowing plenty of commentary on the small details of the scenes and personalities being described, and plenty of insight into the internal thought-processes of Guinevere Pettigrew.

Meanwhile, in the other direction, one thing the book does which the film really couldn't have is to show very vividly how everything that is happening to Miss Pettigrew is, for her, essentially like stepping into one of the films which have been her only escape from drudgery for the past twenty or more years. She judges the apartments and nightclubs she finds herself in by the standard of what she has seen in the cinema, categorises the people she meets as 'heroes' or 'villains' and of course throughout is described in terms of someone acting a role - which she eventually discovers might actually be the real her after all. It makes the whole novel a very enjoyable and rather mischievous commentary on the escapist romantic films which were regularly served up to female audiences at the time, and are what Miss Pettigrew must have been watching.

And by contrast to those films, which tended to emphasise conformity to traditional gender roles and to present marriage as the ultimate female aspiration, Miss Pettigrew offers up a quite different view of femininity. Every woman in it is, in her own way, strong, independent and capable of shaping her own destiny, while of course the central relationship between Miss Pettigrew and Miss LaFosse presents a strong picture of two women helping and supporting one another, rather than relying on the input of men. As [ profile] the_lady_lily pointed out in her own review, there is the occasional slight hint of racism in the story - particularly concerning Phil, who is essentially rejected as a suitable husband for Miss LaFosse because "somewhere in his ancestry there has been a Jew." But other than that, the story and characters feel incredibly modern, and I'm not surprised to learn from the introduction that it was considered rather shocking at the time.

Finally, alongside the text, the modern Persephone Classics edition also presents the wonderful original illustrations produced by Mary Thompson to accompany the book. I'm glad to say that someone has scanned one of them here so that I don't have to - but that really is only one example of a fabulous set of drawings which run right through the entire book.

In summary, highly, highly, HIGHLY recommended - especially, but not only, if you are female. I now have a huge crush on the author.

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strange_complex: (Invader Zim globe)
Well, I haven't posted a Doctor Who write-up here since August, it would seem. What with Belfast, and then Vienna, and then term starting, I haven't had much time for anything but memes and cut 'n' paste lately. Which isn't to say that the last month or so hasn't been enormous fun. Just not conducive to writing about cult TV.

Now, however, I have a whole weekend to myself and nothing in particular to do - for the first time in about six weeks. So it's time to start catching up!

Fifth Doctor: Earthshock )

All in all, good stuff - and I look forward to seeing more of the stories which precede and follow this one.

Second Doctor: The Invasion )

Overall verdict - a real classic with some brilliant moments. Just a pity about the feminist failure surrounding Isobel's venture into the sewers.

What's more, with those two stories written up, I do believe I can allow myself to actually start watching Doctor Who again now, rather than getting by on old episodes of Poirot and Sex and the City in an attempt to stop my write-up backlog growing even larger than it already was. Hooray!

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strange_complex: (Ulysses 31)
With Sarah Jane covered, I'm now taking two parallel approaches to my Who viewing: returning to the early days to watch William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton's stories sequentially, while also joining Lovefilm and sticking all DVDs released to date for the Third, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors on my request list (well, except for Seven's final story, Survival, that is - I feel that particular one actually does need to be watched last).

When I said 'sequentially' for One and Two, what I'd originally really meant was 'sequentially but omitting those stories that are more than fifty percent missing'. Having watched Hartnell's first three stories back in January, then, that meant I was scheduled to sail right on past the next story, Marco Polo, and pick up at The Keys of Marinus instead. But then [ profile] gair pointed me towards [ profile] altariel, who had listened to the sound-track with linking narration, and she was so enthusiastic about it, actually ranking Marco Polo as the strongest story in the first season, that I decided to give it a try after all.

First Doctor: Marco Polo )

I'm definitely glad [ profile] altariel stopped me from missing this one, then, and plan to continue with audio and / or still reconstructions when I get to other stories for which the original footage has been lost. I do reserve the right to rethink this policy when I get to seasons 3-5, though, where only four stories survive entirely complete out of a total of 26. That could get kinda tedious - at least unless tempered pretty heavily with complete stories from later eras. We'll see.

strange_complex: (Doctor Caecilius hands)
Right - now that Life is all up to date and I have some free time, I can continue with my Who reviews. I return here to the sequential viewing of Sarah Jane's stories with the Third Doctor which I started last month.

Third Doctor: The Monster of Peladon )

Third Doctor: Planet of the Spiders )

And with that, I have seen all of Sarah Jane's mainstream Doctor Who stories, including The Five Doctors and Dimensions in Time (though in those cases not within the lifespan of this journal, so I shall be revisiting them in these pages at some point). There's a fair number of audio adventures still out there for me, not to mention her K-9 and Company appearance (now on my Lovefilm wishlist), and a bizarre straight-to-video outing I've only just found out about called Downtime from the mid-'90s. But as regards the central core of stories which feature interaction between her and the Doctor, I am fully up to speed now. With her warmth, her sparkle, her independence and yet also her sense of wide-eyed innocence, she remains definitively my favourite Doctor Who companion by a long chalk - though it's been great to see so many of the same qualities re-appearing in Donna more recently. Three cheers, then, for The Sarah Jane Adventures, and the new series of it which is coming in the autumn.

strange_complex: (C J Cregg)
I've just received an email from a female student, addressing me as 'Miss X' - not at all an uncommon occurrence. I like to think I'm not the kind of person who would feel the need to go round with a stick up my ass about people getting my title wrong like this - except that the rest of her email goes on to demonstrate perfectly why, nevertheless, I do. Within three sentences, she has gone on to mention (in the context of possible dissertation supervisors for next year) two of my male colleagues - and both of them are referred to, entirely correctly, as 'Dr. Y' and 'Dr. Z'.

Just for the record, it's not that she hasn't had every opportunity of noticing that I am a Doctor, too. She took one of my modules last year, so would have seen it on the module documentation. Meanwhile, this year she is studying in Italy, and as such has received numerous emails from me in my capacity as Study Abroad coordinator, all of which included my full name and title in the signature file. Also, one of the male colleagues she mentions is of a very similar age to me - so this should rule out the possibility that she is assuming I am too young to have become a Doctor yet. All that's left is an apparent unconscious assumption that female academics are not equivalent in status to their male colleagues.

It's not the first time I've seen this, or the first time I've seen it coming from someone who is female themselves. I recognise that a lot of people don't really understand what academic titles mean, or how you earn them. But even if you don't know the fine details, I think it's generally clear enough that 'Doctor' is an honorific, earned title. Seeing female academics regularly stripped of it by underlying assumptions about their intellectual status, while their male colleagues are not, is just one more sign of how unbalanced gender relations continue to be.

strange_complex: (ITV digital Monkey popcorn)
Continuing with my efforts to explore the Doctor Who archives rather more systematically than I have done to date, I've chalked up another three stories over the last week.

Fourth Doctor: The Ark in Space )

Fourth Doctor: City of Death )

First Doctor: An Unearthly Child )

Classic Who

Monday, 7 January 2008 19:06
strange_complex: (TARDIS)
Doctor Who has always been a part of my life. I suppose I must have started watching it because my Dad did - or, I wonder now that I know Who fans with children, did he start watching it seriously partly because he had a little kid to enjoy it with? Anyway, my memories of it stretch back at least to the age of three (more on this later), and I've kept up an active interest in it ever since.

Semi-fandom )

Put simply (and with a little help from Wikipedia), this is generally the level of difference between me and a serious fan:
Serious fan: It may be a controversial opinion, but I really think The Talons of Weng-Chiang is one of the high points of the Tom Baker era. I just love all the Sherlock Holmes references in it!
Me: [slight pause] Er - is that the one with the giant rat in the sewer?
Over the last year, though, my fandom for New Who has increased to such a pitch (thanks to the overall excellent series 3) that I've decided it's about time I ploughed back into the archives. Time Crash probably played a pretty big role there, actually. If New Who was going to reference Old Who so explicitly, then I decided it was about time I enhanced my appreciation of both by rediscovering the original - and maybe just a little bit of my lost childhood along the way.

Fifth Doctor: Caves of Androzani )

Fifth Doctor: Castrovalva )

Childhood memories )

Fourth Doctor: Robot )

A journey has definitely begun here, and I'm looking forward to pursuing it further. I don't think I'll ever try to be a completist, because I know that would involve sitting through an awful lot of dross. But Operation Classic Who is go! least until New Who begins again in the spring. :-)


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